ARLINGTON, Va. – After a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom bluntly assessed the Capitals' power-play performance.
"We were terrible actually," he said.
Washington failed to score on five opportunities Sunday, taking two shots on goal in 8:58 of power-play time. To ensure that there is no repeat performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center on Wednesday, the Capitals spent practice Tuesday working on special teams.
Coaches oversaw a full-ice drill emphasizing breakouts and zone entries, which were sloppy against the Flyers and prevented them from setting up effectively.
"Maybe a little more movement so we can establish better shots," defenseman Mike Green said when asked where improvement can be made. "Right now we've got to make sure we're creating open space and not just standing still. We've relied so much on our structure that we haven't really improvised in any sense; maybe a little of that to try to create some movement. We'll get our shots. It's just a matter of going to the net and banging one home. I don't think they're going to be the pretty plays, especially at this part of the season."
Despite the recent hiccup, the Capitals still have the second-ranked power play in the NHL at 23.7 percent. They have had some success against the Penguins this season, scoring three goals on 13 opportunities.
"We're still at the top of the League, so nothing too dramatic," Backstrom said.
Pittsburgh has lost the first three games against Washington this season by a combined 10-1 score. If the Penguins lose in regulation Wednesday, it will be the first time in franchise history that they were swept by the Capitals in a season series without earning a single standings point.
"We've got to come in here and play right and play our game," coach Mike Johnston told the Penguins website. "A lot of loose puck battles are going to be the key tonight."
Here are the projected lineups:
David Perron – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – Blake Comeau
Zach Sill – Brandon Sutter – Beau Bennett
Nick Spaling – Maxim Lapierre – Steve Downie
Paul Martin – Kris Letang
Derrick Pouliot – Robert Bortuzzo
Rob Scuderi – Simon Despres
Scratched: Craig Adams
Injured: Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Christian Ehrhoff (concussion protocol), Olli Maatta (shoulder surgery)
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Andre Burakovsky
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Jason Chimera – Michael Latta – Tom Wilson
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Cameron Schilling – Mike Green
Scratched: Jay Beagle, Aaron Volpatti, Jack Hillen
Injured: Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)
Status report: Schilling will play consecutive games for the first time in his NHL career, skating with Green on Washington's third pair. The Capitals are assessing their defensive depth, particularly those defensemen who are left-handed. "We've got to get a read right before the trade deadline, if we do anything, we want to at least have a read," coach Barry Trotz said.
Who's hot: Holtby has an .033 goals-against average. .989 save percentage and two shutouts against Pittsburgh this season. … Letang leads the Penguins with 24 points since Jan. 1. … Ovechkin has 22 goals in his past 26 games. … Fleury has allowed two or fewer goals in seven straight games.